It was a season that started with a political storm like no other, featuring Novak Djokovic. Yet, the man at the eye of that storm is ending 2022 back on top of the world.
Last January, Djokovic was deported from Melbourne following attempts to plot a route into the country despite his refusal to accept a Covid vaccine.
The fall-out from the affair ended his reign as the world’s No.1 player.
Yet as the 2022 season came to a close in Turin on Sunday, Djokovic was back on top.
The official rankings may not confirm the Serbian’s status as the best player in the men’s game, but his five wins in Turin that saw him lift a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title, backed up the belief that he is the world’s best, heading into what could be a defining year in his career.
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Djokovic was asked whether he saw himself as the world’s best player after his latest ATP Finals win and he was unequivocal in his response.
“I always see myself as the best player in the world,” said Djokovic. “I have that kind of mentality and that kind of approach.
“Regardless of who is across the net, regardless of what the surface is, regardless of what season it is, what number of the professional season in my career we’re facing, it’s always the same. The ambitions are as high as possible.”
“I had an amazing finish to the season with most of the tournaments that I played indoors I won. Indoors has been historically very successful for me.
“Playing in Italy, in a country where I love to play, where I have a really special connection with people, makes this trophy and this win even more special.”
DJOKOVIC’S FAMILY MATTERS
Djokovic’s performance in Turin was propelled by the presence of his children Stefan and Tara cheering him on from the sidelines.
Stefan became something of a social media star as he hit the practice courts every day with his father and his coaching team, with his impressive efforts fuelling suggestions that we may have another Djokovic on the tennis scene in a few years’ time.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 20, 2022
Tara then took centre stage as Novak planted her in the ATP Finals trophy for a social media video that created a stir.
“I’m very grateful to my wife and my children for coming,” Djokovic told the ATP.
“I don’t get to have these moments on the tour with them so much, so I of course try to enjoy it as much as I possibly can.
“I took both of my children, particularly my son, to a lot of the tennis training sessions, warm-ups and matches.”
“He was very loud (in his box). I was very surprised. I could hear his voice the entire time. He was very much into it. They make my life on tour easier.
“The pressures, the expectations, the tensions that you normally go through in a big tournament like this, when they’re around, it lowers a bit so I can have that time off, quality time with my family.
“That really soothes me and gives me serenity in order to recalibrate and play my best tennis the next day. I cherish these moments a lot.”
THE SIDE STORIES
There were plenty of sub-plots at the thrilling ATP Finals, with Rafael Nadal’s future back on the agenda.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion hinted 2023 may be his final year as a professional, with a persistent foot injury hampering his ambitions.
Nadal will be in Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title in January, but it feels like the clock is ticking on his remarkable career.
There are also questions to be answered for ATP Finals runner-up Casper Ruud and former world No.1 Daniil Medvedev.
Ruud’s impressive 2022 campaign included runs to the French Open and US Open finals, but he failed to land a first big title on tour and needs to put that right next year.
Medvedev also must rediscover his form, after a year that has seen him fall from his perch at the top of the game and lose the momentum he was building up.
WHAT COMES NEXT
World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz will be back for the first Grand Slam of the year in January, and he has proved he can mix with the best in the game.
Nick Kyrgios will also be a threat on home soil at the Australian Open, while Nadal will be fired up to defend his title.
Yet there is no doubt that Djokovic will be the player to beat in Melbourne.
His deportation last January will likely inspire him to make up for lost time when he aims to land a tenth Australian Open title.
The ATP Finals left tennis fans wanting more and fortunately, we don’t have to wait long until the new tennis season is upon us.
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